Re-districting –or dancing with Cuccinelli?
In the past re-districting was done by one party with the exception of the Democratic plan enacted when Linwood Holton was Governor.
Some members of the House like Delegate Ken Plum of Reston have been arguing for non-partisan action for many years. Ken was an outspoken proponent in the 1990’s when the House was controlled by Democrats. Others have made similar efforts recently.
In the last two years, Senator Creigh Deeds, the Democrats nominee for Governor, proposed bills to initiate the process. Both times the bills were passed unanimously by the Senate and killed in the House of Delegates Committee on Privileges and Elections at a 7 a.m. meeting.
As the News-Press story pointed out last week, the Virginia Senate Dems seem to have reversed course and decided against non-partisan re-districting, after voting unanimously for it in January, 2010-and in 2009. After the Senate approval this year, it was rejected on an unrecorded vote in a subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections.
Apparently, the Senate Democrats believe that the Republican House will pass the Democratic Senate bill if the Senate passes the House bill. Unless both bodies pass each others bills, the Senate plan fails. In addition, if the Governor does not sign the two bills without substantive amendments, the Senate Democrats plan fails. Further, if the Governor signs both bills, I doubt that anyone can guarantee that Attorney General Cuccinelli will not attempt to intercede in some manner.
If Cuccinelli appeals, as Republican Jerry Kilgore did in 2001, when Mark Warner was Governor, no matter what Governor McDonnell does, the Senate and/or House plans are at risk of court reversal. Therefore, it seems that unless the Governor and the Attorney General agree in advance to support the House approved plan and the Senate approved plan, the Senate Dems redistricting strategy is likely to fail.
Finally, what happens to Congressional districts under the Senate’s current proposal? The Deeds legislation addresses that problem.
It should be clear that the Senate Democrats are in the drivers seat to insist upon a non-partisan solution. Senator Deeds’ bill does not seem to disadvantage any of the parties and could be the basis of a solution if agreed to by all parties. Alternatively, the Virginia Supreme Court could direct a solution, conceivably along the lines of the Deeds bill.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org